March 26, 2009

Experimental Herbicide Plan Along Mexican Border Halted

Plans by US Customs and Border Protection to poison a stretch of land along the Rio Grande has been halted due to complaints from locals stating that the poison could have long-term impacts on public health.

The $2.1 million plan called for CPB officials to spray herbicides along the 1.1-mile stretch of land on the US side of the Rio Grande in order to rid the area of Carrizo cane, which provides cover for illegal immigrants who are trying to cross the US-Mexico Border.

"Someone can be in the cane and be 3 feet away from them, and you cannot see them," Chuck Prichard, spokesman for CBP's Laredo sector told CNN.

"[A Border Patrol agent] could literally be surrounded and have no idea."

The US Army Corps of Engineers had decided to use imazapyr for the test project.

"Imazapyr technical is relatively nontoxic via the oral route of exposure, and only slightly toxic via the dermal and inhalation routes of exposure," according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

On Tuesday residents in communities near Laredo, Texas filed a lawsuit against the CBP, claiming that the group "failed to assess the environmental impact adequately, failed to consider reasonable alternatives and failed to notify the public adequately," CNN reported.

The Houston Chronicle reported that opponents to the plan liken the herbicide to the Vietnam War-era Agent Orange. They fear imazapyr could threaten the water supply for the city of Nuevo Laredo.

"I've lived long enough to know what the government says is safe isn't always safe," said Jay Johnson-Castro Sr., executive director of the Rio Grande International Study Center.

Johnson-Castro told CNN that those who oppose the plan are not against ridding the region of Carrizo. They simply want to make sure that the herbicides being used are safe for those who live in the region, he said.

Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas said he wants to protect police officers and border control agents, but also wants "to make sure it will have zero impact on humans, the water, our environment."


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